Last month’s graduating class from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy’s 274th session included officers from all 50 states, and Washington, D.C., as well as officers from 23 different foreign nations. One of those graduating December 14 was Southampton Town police Lieutenant Susan Ralph. She spoke about the program last week.
“It is something I wanted to do for a long time,” Ralph said.
The program, which runs slightly longer than 10 weeks, and is held at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA, focuses on both physical fitness and classroom study. Participants must be recommended by their department heads. Officers must carry the rank of lieutenant or higher to qualify.
The physical fitness aspect of the program, “is tailored to keeping us healthy, and eating right,” and, of course, physical training, Lt. Ralph said. At the end of the course, all participants have to run a 10-kilometer obstacle course, designed by the U.S. Marine Corps, along what is called the Yellow Brick Road.
The academy’s website describes the course in detail: “Participants must climb over walls, run through creeks, jump through simulated windows, scale rock faces with ropes, crawl under barbed wire in muddy water, maneuver across a cargo net, and more. When (and if) the students complete this difficult test, they receive an actual yellow brick to memorialize their achievement.” The website continues, “The course came to be known as the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ years ago, after the Marines placed yellow bricks at various spots to show runners the way through the wooded trail.”
The academy was founded in 1935. The classes focus on different aspects of police for ranking officers, including behavioral science, forensic science, understanding terrorism and terrorist mindsets, leadership, and communication.
But, perhaps the most important thing graduates come away with is the networks of relationships they form. After her graduation, Lt. Ralph came across a situation during a recent investigation on which she wanted advice. “I reached out to my counterparts and asked them a question, and within five minutes, I had the answer. The whole class has a group approach, where we can talk to each other.”
With many students from foreign countries in the class, it gave Ralph an appreciation for the fact that, around the world, police forces are frequently dealing with the same issues she sees on the East End: “Staffing, (potential) terrorism, the Opioid epidemic.” It was extremely useful for Lt. Ralph to see how departments in other nations dealt with those issues.
Working seamlessly with other departments is an important skill set the classes help build. Having worked with other agencies prepping for and policing mass events, like the U.S. Open at Shinnecock, Ralph has a keen awareness of the importance of that skill set.
There were also officers taking the class from the Suffolk County PD, the Nassau County department, three from the NYPD, and several officers from departments in upstate New York.
Having completed the course, she now has her yellow brick. “It was amazing experience,” said Ralph. “It left a huge smile on my face, the highlight of my career.